SACRAMENTO — The Sacramento Kings aren’t buried yet.
After two heartbreaking losses left them in a desperate situation, the Kings picked themselves up Wednesday night and registered a season-saving 87-81 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in front of 17,317 in Arco Arena.
Chris Webber scored 28 points and the Kings squared their Western Conference semifinal series at two games apiece, with Game 5 set for Friday night at Minneapolis and Game 6 on Sunday at Sacramento.
Against a team that was 3-0 in Arco Arena this season, including a one-point overtime victory Monday night in Game 3, the Kings never trailed after the opening minutes, weathering a strong comeback bid by the Timberwolves.
The Timberwolves, who got 19 points and 21 rebounds from Kevin Garnett, erased a 17-point deficit to tie the game but couldn’t regain the lead. They committed 24 turnovers, nine in the first quarter.
Brad Miller scored 20 points for the Kings, 11 in the fourth quarter. Mike Bibby had 15 points and 12 assists. Webber made 13 of 21 shots.
“I just wanted to be aggressive and make the best of my opportunities,” Webber said.
Said Coach Rick Adelman, looking ahead to Friday’s game: “We have to be really in tune defensively against them. You’ve really got to concentrate on what they’re trying to do, but I think the biggest thing on the road any time, and it happened in the second game, you’ve got to maintain your composure offensively.”
The Kings, instead of trying to hang on in the series, thought they should have been in a position to sweep Wednesday.
They blew a 10-point lead in the final minutes of Game 2. Then in Game 3, after overcoming a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit, they lost in overtime, the outcome hanging in the balance until Stojakovic, pressured by Trenton Hassell, fired up an airball on the final possession. The Kings, of course, cried foul.
Monday’s loss brought the usual panic from the locals, plus suggestions that major changes could be afoot for the Kings, whose history of playoff disappointments includes their famous collapse against the Lakers two years ago: Adelman’s job could be in jeopardy, Webber reportedly wants out, etc.
“I don’t want to think about making moves right now because we have one thing on our mind, and that’s to win the next game,” Joe Maloof, of the controlling Maloof family, told the Sacramento Bee. “But we should be up 3-0. We all know that. We’re a better team than they are.
“This is a horrible time for everybody, for the city. Just walking around downtown, people came up to me … like someone had died.”
It wasn’t that bad. Garnett, in fact, was prepared for the Kings’ best shot.
“You can’t kill this team’s confidence,” he said, reflecting on the Kings’ frantic rally to force overtime in Game 3. “There’s too many shooters. They have too many weapons. This is like two armies, with endless ammo.”
After fans threw maracas onto the floor during Monday’s game or, worse, broke them apart and littered the court with the beads inside, the Kings didn’t distribute the noisemakers before Game 4. The fans had to make do with their throats.
The decibel level grew during an 11-2 burst that helped the Kings to a 21-15 lead after the first. Webber made all six of his shots in the quarter and the Timberwolves committed nine turnovers, two on shot-clock violations.
As unpleasant as it had been for the Timberwolves, the opening quarter didn’t look quite so bad when they started the second by missing 11 of their first 12 shots, the Kings hitting them with a 14-3 run that made the score 35-19.
The Kings increased their lead to 17, but the Timberwolves worked themselves free for several layups at the end of the half to cut the deficit to 42-31.
The drawstring on Garnett’s shorts came loose during a play midway through the first quarter. He held up his shorts with one hand and played defense with the other, but Webber hit a jumper over him. … After the game, fans serenaded Bibby with an impromptu rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Bibby turns 26 today.
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